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Lance Grundy (Great Britain)

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Always Right (Kindle Single)
Always Right (Kindle Single)
Price: £1.15

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Revolutionary ideas in a revolutionary format, 14 May 2013
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Niall Ferguson is one of my favourite historians so almost as soon as I saw he'd published this 99 pence, 30-odd page opinion piece about the late Margaret Thatcher, I downloaded a copy to my Kindle.

Taking a similar - though more balanced - stance as Martin Durkin's recent TV documentary for Britain's Channel 4, "Margaret: Death of a Revolutionary", Ferguson argues in clear and simple language that Margaret Thatcher was a political, economic and social revolutionary who shook a decrepit and increasingly left-wing British establishment to its foundations.

The title itself is somewhat deceptive as Ferguson admits early on that Thatcher was certainly not "always right". Nevertheless, according to him, history has proved she was "right about most things" and although he considers her to have been "the saviour of her country" he highlights numerous ways in which her revolution failed *on its own terms*.

However, Ferguson's wider point that the Thatcher revolution was a capitalist revolution and therefore should be measured by capitalist, not socialist standards makes this 'Kindle Single' a thought-provoking read and worth every one of the ninety-nine pennies it costs to buy.


1913: The World before the Great War
1913: The World before the Great War
by Charles Emmerson
Edition: Hardcover

45 of 51 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unearthing a World on the Eve of Disaster, 2 May 2013
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Starting in July 2014 and continuing until 11 November 2018 the world will remember The Great War. During that period, right across the globe, numerous memorial services will take place, books will be published, documentaries will be aired and films will be shown as the world remembers the more than nine million, mostly young men, who lost their lives in that terrible conflict. However, because the events of the First World War were so appalling and overshadowed everything which came after, there is a tendency for us to overlook what came before. What was the world like just before the Great War? This perfectly-timed book, written by Charles Emmerson, a Senior Research Fellow at the Royal Institute for International Affairs, aims to provide the answer.

Divided into four parts and covering twenty-three of the world's major cities this fascinating book takes its reader on a whirlwind tour of the globe in 1913. Starting and finishing in London and crossing five continents in between, Emmerson uses contemporary sources [including newspaper reports, diaries, memoirs and extracts from Baedeker guides] to paint a vivid portrait of a world on the cusp of enormous change. While Europe still dominated much of the world in 1913 and monarchical and aristocratic government prevailed across most of the continent, the forces of change were on the march.

Further afield, new powers were rising and a new trend, 'globalisation', was beginning to deconstruct the existing order, unleashing enormous political, economic and social change in its wake. Emmerson's "1913" captures this zeitgeist perfectly, conveying both the sense of optimism and uncertainty which pervaded global society on the eve of the Great War. It seems that right across the globe there was a feeling that life was changing and mostly for the better. All sorts of new technology and consumer goods were becoming widely available and living standards were rising across much of the 'old' and 'new' worlds. Then "bang"...

I thought this was a fantastic book and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Easy to read and informative, it combined three things which interest me: history, travel and politics [even if you're only interested in one or two of these things I'd imagine it would still be a worthwhile read]. Although it runs to over 500 pages it's a book you can dip into and out of at your leisure as each chapter, at around 20 pages, can be read as a stand-alone essay on the featured city. As we approach the 100th anniversary of the Great War of 1914-1918 and we commemorate those who were killed, we need to ensure we remember them not just as soldiers but also as people. To do that we need to understand the world which formed them, the culture they came from and the times they lived through. Welcome to 1913, the world as it was before the Great War.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 12, 2013 9:40 PM BST


Before the Revolution: View of Russia Under the Last Tsar
Before the Revolution: View of Russia Under the Last Tsar
by Kyril FitzLyon
Edition: Hardcover

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Lost World of Nicholas II, 25 April 2013
Published in 1977, this long-forgotten but nevertheless fascinating book contains over 200 photographs taken during the last years of the Imperial Russian Empire. The collection, carefully selected by Tatiana Browning, provides an important historical record of both the vast ethnic and cultural diversity of Tsarist Russia and the enormous disparity of wealth which existed in the country at that time.

The wonderful black-and-white pictures are supplemented by some excellent commentary from Kyril Fitzlyon [who grew up in revolutionary Russia] and his fifty page introductory text to the photographs is as insightful and comprehensive a summary of the social framework of Russia during the reign of Nicholas II as you're likely to find.

For me, this splendid 35-year-old book was a real find and with second-hand copies of it retailing on Amazon for only a couple of pence each it's a definite 'buy' for anyone with an interest in pre-revolutionary Russia.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 28, 2015 9:36 PM GMT


Blood Upon the Snow - Russia's War (4 Disc) [DVD]
Blood Upon the Snow - Russia's War (4 Disc) [DVD]
Offered by The Canny Store
Price: £16.73

26 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Russia's World at War, 19 April 2013
Although the 1970s TV series The World At War is widely acknowledged to be one of the finest examples of British historical documentary making of the twentieth century, it does have one rather obvious flaw. Because it was made at the height of the Cold War, when Europe was still divided by the Iron Curtain, the makers of the series were unable to access the Soviet Union's Second World War archives. Consequently, lacking the necessary material, the producers were only ever able to devote a rather inadequate three [out of twenty-six] episodes to the war on the Eastern Front. Twenty-four years later this prestigious Anglo-Russian production, made very much in the style of 'The World at War', is a serious attempt to address those inadequacies and provide the viewer with a high-quality documentary series which better reflects the vast scale and enormity of what the Russians still call The Great Patriotic War.

Covering the Soviet Union's Stalinist period between 1924-1953 and spread over ten 52 minute episodes, this exceptional series catalogues the experiences of the Russian people before, during and after World War Two. With each episode introduced by Dr Henry Kissinger and narrated by Nigel Hawthorne this is an impressive piece of documentary making. Laced with contributions from respected Russian historians [such as Dmitri Volkogonov, the former head of the Soviet military's psychological warfare department and biographer of Joseph Stalin and Vladimir Lenin] and containing interviews with those who worked alongside, or personally knew, Uncle Joe [including his granddaughter] the series is awash with informed opinion. Numerous interviews with Red Army veterans are combined with a wide range of contemporary photographs and film extracts which have never before been seen in the West and these are supplemented with riveting source material from the Soviet archives. Thankfully, the entire series is devoid of the kind of ham-acted, reconstructed scenes now so prevalent in dumbed-down modern 'historical' documentaries.

This is an excellent series which would be appreciated by anyone interested in WWII on the Eastern Front or who wanted to learn more about life in the Soviet Union under Stalin. Essentially a history of how the long-suffering Russian people were fighting a war on two fronts - against National Socialist Germany and their own communist government - it provides an important, visual, historical record of the period courtesy of those who lived through it. As with The World At War this series can never be remade or bettered as by now, most - if not all - of the witnesses to history who are interviewed here will have passed away.


Interrogation [1982] [DVD] [1990]
Interrogation [1982] [DVD] [1990]
Dvd ~ Krystyna Janda

5.0 out of 5 stars Exceptional, 16 April 2013
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Made in 1981-82 and set in the Stalinist Poland of the early 1950s, 'Interrogation' tells the story of a cabaret singer called Tonia who, following a drunken night out, is arrested by the State Security Police and put into jail where she is held for years without charge and without ever being told why she is there. While in prison she is mentally and physically tortured and is repeatedly interrogated about her role in "anti-socialist" political crimes she knows nothing about. Asked again and again to sign written confessions to crimes she has not committed and brutalised by her interrogators, Tonia's defiance of her persecutors grows stronger as they become ever more desperate for her to submit to their bullying. After becoming sexually involved with one of her interrogators she falls pregnant by him and after the child is placed in an orphanage and the interrogator commits suicide, Tania is finally released from custody bloody but unbowed. The film was highly controversial in communist Poland and after making the film the director, Ryszard Bugajski, was forced into exile.

Indeed, the story of the making of Interrogation is as interesting as the film itself and one of the best features of the 1990 DVD release is a 30 minute interview with Ryszard Bugajski in which he explains the difficulties he experienced in making his film and how and why it took nearly ten years to bring it to the big screen. Growing up in communist Poland in the 1970s and 1980s Bugajski had become aware very early on in his life of the effect that socialist oppression was having on the lives of ordinary people. Arbitrary arrest, false imprisonment, torture and politically-motivated execution were common place in Poland at that time and Bugajski believed that it was his duty as a filmmaker to expose how the Polish state had used - and was still using - physical and mental violence against its own people for political ends.

Although initially approved for production during the breakdown of state control which followed the first Solidarity uprising of 1981, the film's planned release was banned following the imposition of martial law later that same year. At that point 'Interrogation' was described by the Polish State Film Board as a "loathsome", "vile", "manipulative" and "disgusting" piece of film-making which "expressed hatred towards the values of a socialist country". Bugajski was sacked from his job as a film director and told he would "never make films again". After being told by the Security Police that "if he was lucky" they would "let him drive a cab" he decided to emigrate to Canada. He did not return to Poland until after the fall of communism in 1989 and his film was finally premiered in Warsaw on 1 December of that year. Krystyna Janda, who played Tonia, went on to win the Best Actress Award at the 1990 Cannes Film Festival where 'Interrogation' was also nominated for, but sadly didn't win, the Palme D'Or.


General Nil [ PAL, Reg.2 Import - Poland] (2009)
General Nil [ PAL, Reg.2 Import - Poland] (2009)
Dvd ~ Olgierd Lukaszewicz
Offered by AVALON
Price: £16.98

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Death before dishonor, 1 April 2013
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General August Emil Fieldorf, codename "Nil", was the legendary Commander-in-Chief of the Polish Home Army [Armia Krajowa], during World War Two. Despite the patriotic heroism he displayed in fighting against the Nazis and fascism he was falsely accused of being a traitor by Poland's post-war communist regime and executed on 24 February 1953. Although his reputation was fully rehabilitated after the fall of communism his body has never been found and none of those responsible for his arrest, trial and execution have ever been brought to justice. This film covers the final years of Fieldorf's life during the period 1947-1953 - although it begins with a flashback to 1944 and the assassination of Warsaw's Nazi Chief of Police, Franz Kutschera, which was carried out on the General's orders.

In Polish with English subtitles and directed by Ryszard Bugajski, one of Poland's finest directors, this moving film tells the true story of Fieldorf's arrest, trial and execution in Stalinist Poland. Well acted and well made, the film's style reminded me of Andrzej Wajda's Katyn and it is equally effective at conveying the oppressive claustrophobia of life under Poland's Soviet-backed regime. Bugajski was himself persecuted by Poland's communist government in the 1980s after he made a highly controversial film called Interrogation which exposed the Polish state's use of mental and physical torture against its own citizens. Dismissed from his job at the film studio where he worked and then forced into exile in Canada the director is well aware of the darker side of life in socialist Poland and there are some harrowing scenes of torture in the film.


The Russian Court at Sea: The Last Days of A Great Dynasty: The Romanov's Voyage into Exile
The Russian Court at Sea: The Last Days of A Great Dynasty: The Romanov's Voyage into Exile
by Frances Welch
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

4.0 out of 5 stars The Russian Royal Family's voyage into exile courtesy of the British Royal Navy, 30 Mar. 2013
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In 1919, during the The Russian Civil War, the British battleship HMS Marlborough was sent to the Crimea by King George V to rescue his aunt, the Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna, and other members of the Russian Imperial Family. The Dowager Empress's son, Tsar Nicholas II, had been murdered by the Bolsheviks the year before in Ekaterinburg and with the Red Army now threatening Yalta [the town on the Crimean peninsula where many of the surviving Romanovs were living on their summer estates] the British King ordered the Royal Navy to evacuate the Dowager Empress and her entourage of White Russians to the safety of Malta as soon as possible.

Frances Welch's book about this little known episode in Anglo-Russian history is an interesting reminder of the long-forgotten British intervention in the Russian Civil War. The daring rescue of the remnants of the Russian Imperial Family by a British warship was a story just waiting to be told and Welch tells it well, bringing it to life with extracts from the diaries and memoirs of both the passengers and the crew of the ship. From these accounts it would appear that the ship's crew and the passengers became surprisingly enamoured with each other during the voyage. All those involved come across as quite likeable characters and many of the crewmen comment on the kindness of members of the Imperial Family both towards their own servants and the crewmen themselves. Both officers and ratings seem to agree that these people were nothing like the "pitiless tyrants" they had read about in the "Leftist propaganda" disseminated by the Bolsheviks - and Bolshevik propaganda was something the Marlborough's crew had read plenty of.

The Marlborough, laden as it was with the remaining possessions of the Imperial Family [a treasure trove of gold, silver, diamonds, expensive jewellery, paper currency, at least two Rembrandts and a couple of Faberge eggs] was a prime target for Bolshevik avarice. Ratings on shore leave in the Crimea were subjected to a barrage of propaganda leaflets courtesy of the Red Army's newly formed Communications Unit and throughout the voyage there was an ever-present threat that the sailors would fall prey to communist rabble-rousing and mutiny just as had happened with their French counterparts. Coaxed by Red propaganda, French sailors had locked up their officers and turned over their ship's cargoes to the Bolsheviks. Fortunately, its seems the British crewmen treated such crude attempts at political agitation with a combination of derision and scorn and HMS Marlborough's passengers and cargo reached Malta safely.

After recording her day-by-day account of the voyage, Welch uses the final third of the book to explain what happened to the passengers and crew of the ship after their short but historic voyage was over. Ironically, the Dowager Empress herself, who had longed to return to Russia until the day she died, was to return there the same way she left: onboard a warship. In 2006 her remains, which had originally been buried in Denmark, were taken onboard a Royal Danish Navy warship to St Petersburg in Russia. After lying in state in St Isaac's Cathedral she was finally interred in the vault of the Peter and Paul Fortress along with the remains of her son, the Tsar and his family.

Although there's nothing particularly new in this book it would still make worthwhile reading for anyone interested in The Romanovs, The Russian Revolutionor the Allied intervention in the Russian Civil War. As other reviewers note, although the book lacks the necessary footnotes and references to be classified as a serious piece of historical analysis, it is still an easy to read and interesting account of the Russian Imperial Family's voyage into exile onboard a Royal Navy warship.


The Russian Revolution: World War to Civil War 1917-1921 (Images of War)
The Russian Revolution: World War to Civil War 1917-1921 (Images of War)
by Nik Cornish
Edition: Paperback
Price: £14.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The faces of the Russian Revolution, 7 Mar. 2013
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This lavishly illustrated history book has been put together by the author Nik Cornish who has written a number of books about the armed forces of Russia and the Soviet Union. Here he has applied his considerable knowledge of twentieth century Russian military history to the period 1917-1921 and his photographic history of the era records such momentous, world-changing events as Russian participation in the First World War, the October Revolution and the Russian Civil War.

The photographs themselves are of good quality and are mainly drawn from the Russian archives. As such, most of them have never been seen before in the West and when combined with Cornish's brief, politically balanced narrative of the period they make a fairly impressive visual history book which would be of interest to anyone looking for a photographic record of Russia before, during and immediately after the Revolution.


The Fate of Admiral Kolchak
The Fate of Admiral Kolchak
by Peter Fleming
Edition: Paperback

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Russian dictator who "went to his death like an Englishman", 28 Feb. 2013
Admiral Kolchak is one of the most controversial characters of twentieth century Russian history. A naval hero in World War One, he resigned his commission in disgust in 1917 when the Bolsheviks seized power during the Russian Revolution. Initially he offered his services to the British army but, following a mysterious coup d'état in Omsk in November 1918, he was named as 'The Supreme Ruler of all the Russias'. Under his counter-revolutionary rule Tsarist laws were restored and his 'White' armies, assisted by Allied forces including the British, waged war on the communist 'Red' forces in the Russian Civil War. In April 1919 the Bolshevik Central Executive Committee made defeating Kolchak its number one priority. In January 1920, after being betrayed by the Allies, he was handed over to Left SR [Socialist Revolutionary] soldiers at Irkutsk in Siberia and executed by firing squad in the early hours of 7 February 1920. His body was then thrown into the frozen river Ushakovka through a hole in the ice.

First published in 1963, this fascinating investigative history book by Peter Fleming [the older brother of James Bond creator Ian Fleming] was republished in 2001 in response to an increased interest in Kolchak following the fall of communism. In the book Fleming uses Soviet transcripts of Kolchak's trial, declassified documents from the British Military Mission in Siberia and testimonies from people who knew and served with the Admiral [a number of whom were still alive when this book was written in 1963] to determine the reasons for his execution at the hands of the Bolsheviks. Written like a boys-own adventure "The fate of Admiral Kolchak" has all the ingredients of a good thriller in which plots, spies, secret missions and derring-do abound against a backdrop of war and revolution. It also touches on what has become the legend of 'Kolchak's Gold', the enduring mystery of what happened to the sizeable portion of Imperial Russia's gold bullion reserves which disappeared during the Civil War.

For me though, Fleming's most interesting revelation doesn't directly concern Kolchak at all and occurs very early on in the book in Chapter 1. It concerns an apparently minor incident which took place at Chelyabinsk railway station on 14 May 1918. A trainload of Austrian and Hungarian prisoners of war heading west pulled up alongside several trainloads of Czechoslovak soldiers who were heading east. As the Austro-Hungarian train began to pull away, one of the Hungarian soldiers shouted "an obscene, blasphemous comment" at a group of Czechs and then threw a piece of metal at them which knocked one of them to the ground. The injured soldier's comrades dragged the Hungarian soldier off his train and beat him to death. According to Fleming, "no single death was to have more far-reaching consequences than that of the Hungarian soldier battered to death on a Siberian railway station. This obscure brawl...was the spark that ignited a blaze of civil war over a vast expanse of Russian territory". It was a Civil War in which over 10 million people would perish - and the incident at Chelyabinsk is a brutal reminder that sometimes seemingly minor events can have catastrophic consequences.

Peter Fleming has written a great book here which would appeal to anyone interested in the Russian Revolution, the Russian Civil War or the Allied Intervention in Siberia. Fleming is as sympathetic to Kolchak as he can be without in any way minimising his responsibility for the corrupt and sometimes barbarous actions of his White subordinates, many of whom were allowed to get away with murder - literally. He also differentiates between Kolchak the man, who I suspect Fleming quite admires, and Kolchak the dictator who he considers hopeless; "a dictator incapable of dictating" as he puts it. In his introduction Fleming says that in writing this book he "wanted to establish as accurately as possible the circumstances of Kolchak's failure, of his betrayal and of his death" and I think he has achieved that. Fleming's conclusion that Kolchak's fate, capture and execution were ultimately the responsibility of the French General Janin and his Czech counterpart Sirovy is well-argued and, unlike Kolchak who, according to Soviet records, "went to his death like an Englishman", neither of these men come away from Fleming's account with much credit.


Lonely Planet St Petersburg (Travel Guide)
Lonely Planet St Petersburg (Travel Guide)
by Lonely Planet
Edition: Paperback
Price: £13.50

17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Don't go to St Petersburg without it, 22 Feb. 2013
St Petersburg is one of the world's great historical cities and as such there is no shortage of things to see and do. In fact, there is so much to see and do, and the scale of the city is so vast, that without a decent guidebook to help you plan your trip you're likely to find yourself overwhelmed by the sheer number of historically important sights demanding to be seen. It also feels like a very 'foreign' city where few people speak English and anyone who doesn't speak Russian and/or read the Cyrillic alphabet can feel quite isolated. If you're not visiting St Petersburg on an organised tour then you will need this book.

This is the first Lonely Planet guidebook I've used in a long time and I found it extremely useful both before and during my visit. In addition to all the usual information on sights, hotels, restaurants and nightlife it is packed with handy little tips that can make your trip go more smoothly. For example, I was staying on Vasilievsky Island and the "Top Tip" for that area was that when you are returning to Vasileostrovskaya Metro station from the city centre "you should make sure you get on the very last carriage of the train as this is closest to the escalator when you arrive at the station. The platform at this very busy station is always swamped with people and you'll have to wait for minutes before being able to get on the escalator unless you use this sneaky trick". A great tip which saved me a lot of time - especially when one of the escalators was out of order! Another great timesaving tip in the guide is to buy your tickets for the Hermitage on-line from the museum's website before you leave the UK. This will save you waiting in the enormous queues which form at the ticket desks especially at weekends.

I also found the Survival Guide to be particularly useful especially the instructions on how to flag down a car for a lift [St Petersburg has very few official taxis and the few that exist are unmetered; most people just wave down a passing car] and I thought having an illustration of the type of plug used in Russia - so you can actually see which one of the many adapters you own is the one you need to take with you to charge your phone - was a great idea.

Finally, one tip from me that isn't in this guide but it's one I'd like to suggest the publishers include in the next edition. If you're going to be visiting St Petersburg in the Winter and you plan to walk around sightseeing then I'd recommend you buy yourself a pair of clip-on ice-grippers for your shoes. The ice-covered pavements are downright dangerous. Believe me, it'll be the best ten quid you've ever spent.


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